Clemson Baseball: How do the Tigers improve moving forward?

The 2019 Clemson baseball season ended in disappointing fashion with the Tigers being eliminated in the Oxford Regional Sunday afternoon.

The 2019 Clemson baseball season was not one for the ages.

The Tigers started out on a hot streak, sweeping UNC and beating Louisville in ACC weekend series. At the early start, Clemson was inside the top-10 nationally and the Tigers were looking like world beaters. Unfortunately, that didn’t last.

After beginning the season 22-6, the Tigers finished the regular season by losing 15 of their last 23 games before losing to Boston College to be eliminated in the ACC Tournament and then losing in just Game Three of the Oxford Regional to Jacksonville State in blowout fashion.

The season left Tiger fans confused, frustrated, angry, upset and disappointed. How does Monte Lee and his staff reverse these feelings next season? Many Clemson baseball fans are already putting the four-year head coach on the hot seat.

How do the Tigers improve moving forward?

It all starts with pitching. Yes, the hitting was atrocious at times and we’ll get to that in just a second. But, it all starts with pitching.

The main reason Clemson hasn’t been able to advance out of a Regional in the past four years is because they have never had the depth at pitching to do so. The starting pitching, in particular, was inconsistent this season.

Because the Tigers didn’t have good starting pitching, it taxed the bullpen and spent arms way too soon. For Clemson to have any chance at becoming an elite team, the Tigers have to have several guys- not just one every now and then- that can consistently go 5-6 innings. There’s promise with guys like Spencer Strider and Carter Rayfield (freshman) returning from Tommy John surgery that they could potentially become consistent arms for the Tigers in starting roles. Mat Clark and Davis Sharpe both showed signs this season, but were also inconsistent at times.

Sharpe is a guy that I believe could develop into a Friday night starter, but he’s still young and it may take another year before he’s truly ready to be an Ace of a Division 1 collegiate staff. Others like Sam Weatherly, Justin Wrobleski and Keyshawn Askew showed signs at times, but were all inconsistent.

If the Tigers want to become a team that can advance out of an NCAA Regional, they’ve got to develop starting pitching. You need three consistent guys that can get you at the very least through five innings. You need a guy or two that can consistently be relied upon for midweek starts.

Then you’ve got to have a bullpen that has a strong mentality. No one really had roles this season and that’s because no one really ever truly earned the trust of the staff. That has to change moving forward.

Offensively, Clemson is going to lose a lot of talent especially in the middle of that lineup. Logan Davidson is going to leave for the MLB Draft. Grayson Byrd is gone. Kyle Wilkie is likely gone. That’s your 2-3-4 hitters and they’re all going to be gone. The Tigers will certainly have to work on finding new hitters to fill the lineup and to come away with good defensive options to replace the production of Wilkie and Davidson, especially.

The biggest takeaway offensively, though, doesn’t have to do with the guys leaving. The biggest problem I see is that this team took the ‘hero ball’ approach too many times this season. When they got down, say 5-1 early, they didn’t try to play small ball and get back in the game.

Every player went up with the intention of swinging for the fences. With RISP, instead of just trying to hit a quick line drive to right field and potentially score both of the runners, they would try to hit the long ball and come up short. In many cases, they’d strike out or hit into an inning-ending double-play.

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It’s a mixture of things when you’re talking about improving the Clemson baseball program, but it all starts with the pitching. The pitching has to be fixed. The depth has to be built and the arms have to get better or Tiger fans can expect the same results next year around this time, as well.

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